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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Woodslee hosts Lakeshore’s Canada Day celebration, honours Joe Croson and Dr. Millen


by Sylene Argent

The Municipality of Lakeshore’s Canada Day celebration was hosted at Millen Park in Woodslee last Friday, offering plenty for residents to do in recognition of the nation’s 155th anniversary.

  Lakeshore rotates its Canada Day festivities around its municipality, year-by-year. Friday’s roster of family-friendly events kicked-off with a parade, and included horse demonstrations, face painting, vendor area, historical and interactive displays, kids’ activities, and live music entertainment from the “Paying Cash” tribute band, before wrapping up with a firework display later that evening.

  During the official program for the event, Councillors and residents of the Municipality of Lakeshore paid tribute to two citizens, who were pillars of volunteerism and had such a strong sense of community pride, it is still noticed today.

  First, the pavilion at Millen Park was named after former resident, Joe Croson (Richard Joseph Croson).

  “All of us have had people in our life, who have had a great impact on not just ourselves, but to a community as a whole. We often do not grasp the chance to thank these people while they are here with us,” resident Steven Chevalier said, who brought the idea of recognizing Croson to Lakeshore Council.

  He said he and his wife, Mary Kay, often walk the trail at Millen Park and reminisced about Croson, who he said lived just over by the northeast corner of the recreation facility.

  At first, they talked about sponsoring a bench in his honour. Chevalier contacted Lakeshore Councillor Kirk Walstedt about the idea, but he suggested a bigger way to remember Croson and did some leg work to name the pavilion in his honour.

  Crozon and his wife, Betty, had four children. He was a youth sports coach, community advocate, and a Councillor for the Township of Rochester.

“He was a tireless advocate for all residents of Rochester Township, but in particular, for those in the south-end, and particularly for the Woodslee and South Woodslee area,” Chevalier said.

When the Dr. S F Millen School was closed in 1980, Croson was an advocate for Rochester to purchase the facility, which it did take ownership of three-years later. He then assembled a team of local residents to assist in transforming the facility into a viable and vibrant community hub.

“It did not take long for the facility to become a bustling site for residents of the southern parts of Rochester Township and southeastern Maidstone Township,” Chevalier said, adding Croson, “Was also pretty much a one-man policing force for the Millen Centre…he would always be watching for anything that wasn’t right, whether that was teenagers at the facility after dark, people riding their ATVs through the park or onto the ball diamonds, people causing damage, vandalism, etc.”

  Croson passed away in 2000.

  Walstedt said the park, and its pavilion, is a place where community members can go and enjoy. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to recognize Joe as a pillar of the community,” he said.

  Lakeshore Council and community members also officially named the half-mile trail at the Woodslee-based park the Dr. S F Millen Trail. It was named this unofficially in 2010, and resident, Joanne McMurren, thought the Canada Day celebration was a perfect fit to make the name official with a plaque.

  Mayor Tom Bain recalled Dr. Stephen Foster Millen as a family doctor, who would stop in to play Checkers and Euchre with his grandparents when he was just a boy.

  He said no one was better at offering house calls, and Dr. Millen did so until he could do it no more. “He was devoted,” Bain said.

  Dr. Millen was born on August 31, 1885 and passed on May 4, 1961. He delivered his first baby in the Woodslee area on January 10, 1907. The last baby he delivered was on April 24, 1961, just ten-days before he passed.

  Information McMurren provided about Dr. Millen notes after his death, his wife, Ella (Wilcox) Millen, donated the land for what would become a four-room school named in his honour. It opened in 1963 and closed in 1980. Three-years later, the Woodslee Branch of the Essex County Library System opened in the former school, and the Woodslee Friendship Club was established. The school building was used until 2013, when it was torn down and the present building was constructed.    

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